PHNOM PENH, Feb 24 — Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s visit to Cambodia has further strengthened 65 years of bilateral ties that has been established between Putrajaya and Phnom Penh in areas across the board, including trade, investments, education and job opportunities.

Both countries acknowledged the need to boost trade and that there were ample room for it.

While Malaysia is keen to sell its golden crop, palm oil to Cambodia, likewise Phnom Penh has come forward and offered the export of more rice to Malaysia, which it believes could help raise bilateral trade.

Total Cambodia-Malaysia trade surpassed US$500 million (RM2.1 billion) in 2021, an increase of 13.14 per cent over the previous year.

Cambodian exports to Malaysia amounted to US$101 million in 2021, up 2.62 per cent from US$98 million in 2020, while imports jumped 16.16 per cent year-on-year to US$399 million from US$343 million the previous year.

Cambodia also wants Malaysian companies to explore the possibility to invest in rice milling activities, considering the kingdom is one of the best rice producers in the world.

The close ties between both countries were prevalent when Ismail Sabri said: “For Malaysia, Cambodia is an important neighbour and member of the Asean family. Malaysia and Cambodia always stand shoulder to shoulder in any situation, in good times or bad.”

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Samdech Techno Hun Sen also expressed the same.

Ismail Sabri also recalled Malaysia’s involvement in every phase of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) following the signing of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords.

“I am happy because Malaysia has contributed towards achieving peace in Cambodia. This year is the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and Cambodia.

“I am confident that both countries will continue to work to strengthen existing cooperation and at the same time, uphold peace, stability and prosperity for the good of the people and the region,” he said after a four-eyed meeting with Hun Sen.

Both leaders dwelled on various regional as well as international issues of common interest.

Malaysia is the third largest investor in Cambodia with FDI worth US$3.53 billion from 1994-2020, just behind China and South Korea. Malaysia’s investments are mainly in the banking, telecommunications, power generation and entertainment sectors.

Besides attracting more investment from Putrajaya, Cambodia is also keen to send its domestic workers to Malaysia. Out of the 2 million registered foreign workers in Malaysia, there are only 1,900 Cambodians, out of which 1,065 are working as maids.

“We have a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Cambodia on this and we are keen to review it to facilitate more foreign workers from Cambodia,” Ismail Sabri said at the end of his two-day visit.

Among others, Malaysia welcomed the recent opening of Cambodia’s international border. Malaysia will also inform about the status of its border opening in the near future.

“If the plan to open our border is delayed, then we probably could work on one-way Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) for Cambodians to travel to Malaysia as Cambodia’s border is already open.”

This is expected ease the movement of people to people between both countries, especially for about 5,000 Malaysians residing in the kingdom.

Ismail Sabri said he had also suggested to Prime Minister Hun Sen that Malaysia helps Cambodia to develop devices or applications that help manage Covid-19 at the national level such as MySejahtera.

“This can help facilitate the people of Cambodia for international travel purposes in the future. The Cambodian side welcomes our proposal. “

Overall, Ismail Sabri said he is happy with the outcome of his maiden trip to Cambodia as the Prime Minister declared it as a great success.

“I am very happy with the outcome of my first official visit to Cambodia. My visit is a sign of the importance of Cambodia as a neighbour and a member of the Asean family.

“I am also happy to be able to speak in Bahasa Malaysia during this official visit in our joint effort to uphold the national language.”

Cambodia, the host of the Asean 2022 summit, is the fourth country in South-east Asia to be visited by Ismail Sabri since he was sworn in as Malaysia’s ninth prime minister on August 21 last year.

Ismail Sabri had earlier visited Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei and is heading to Thailand next. — Bernama